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Not Things ... Places

June 8, 2015

<p>The term &ldquo;Internet of Things&rdquo; needs some updating. Coined about 15 years ago, IoT means everyday objects, connected to the Internet, which have the ability to send and receive data. Many products that fall into the IoT category are, yes, things <strong>&ndash;</strong> but, <strong>it&rsquo;s really not about the <em>things; </em>it&rsquo;s actually about the <em>places</em></strong> where those things are and the kinds of experiences that users have in these places. We&rsquo;re moving beyond simply hanging technology off our bodies and toward weaving it into our environment &ndash; the &ldquo;built&rdquo; places in which we exist.&nbsp;</p> <p>That&rsquo;s why <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.stirworks.com%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHRVEYCiINXPPw0DCGTVJyUpg8Csw">Stir</a> focuses on what we call the <strong>User Experience of Place</strong> (UXoP).</p> <p>UXoP is the intersection of a physical environment and connected devices with built-in adaptive, learning software. <strong>A great UXoP design enhances people&rsquo;s experience without actually being the experience.</strong></p> <p>What does that mean?</p> <p>What the space was designed for continues to happen, it just happens better. The technology fades into the background <strong>&ndash;</strong> it&rsquo;s virtually invisible while still having a positive impact.</p> <p>And there&rsquo;s gigantic value at stake here. According to a study, during the course of a typical building&rsquo;s lifetime, about 30 times more money will be spent on the people in that building than the stuff that fills the interior. By being intentional about the UX design of a place, you can create far more value for people.</p> <p>What makes a good place?</p> <p>A good place is easy to use and navigate, requires no instructions, and creates positive physical and emotional responses. Artful use of technology can help places and the people in them to be exceptional.</p> <p><strong>To achieve a great User Experience of Place, a space needs to:</strong></p> <ol> <li><strong>Use contextual data for personalization &ndash;</strong> meet individual needs better, as opposed to aggregate needs.</li> <li><strong>Adapt / anticipate &ndash;</strong> learn from the people within the space to serve them better, improving the performance of space in support of evolving user needs.</li> <li><strong>Create actionable insights &ndash;</strong> use data to allow devices to gain insights. These insights can be used to subtly interact and create a positive impact.</li> <li><strong>Interact without interrupting &ndash;</strong> communicate with subtlety. People don&rsquo;t want the hardware and software products built into physical spaces to be metaphorically &ldquo;in their face&rdquo; and interrupting workflow, interaction, etc.</li> <li><strong>Empower the user &ndash;</strong> honor the autonomy of people. While a space may be intelligent, people should know they are always in control.</li> </ol> <p>Why did Stir choose to focus first on a desk? For me, it all started about a decade ago when I was working at Apple. I had a height-adjustable desk and loved the impact that it had in my life when I actively used it and changed positions frequently. Throughout my career, I&rsquo;ve worked to get a standing desk whenever I could. But when I got busy, I&rsquo;d end up sitting. I found that it took a lot of discipline to use the desk to change regularly throughout the day. It ended up feeling like another thing on the to-do list.</p> <p>I started doing some research and found that I wasn&rsquo;t alone: About 70 percent of sit-to-stand workstations end up not engaging their users; they remain idle in the seated position. It&rsquo;s just like with fitness equipment and gym memberships, which often fall into disuse. (I can cite several examples from my own experience!)</p> <p>There is a lot of research, and articles, about the negative health effects of sitting all of the time:</p> <ul> <li>A British Journal of Sports Medicine study referenced in the <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/17/get-up-get-out-dont-sit/%3F_r=0"><em>New York Times</em></a> indicated that every eight hours of sitting can cut about three hours off life expectancy</li> <li><a href="https://hbr.org/2013/01/sitting-is-the-smoking-of-our-generation/"><em>Harvard Business Review </em>called sitting &ldquo;the smoking of our generation&rdquo;</a></li> <li><em>The Atlantic</em> published an article on a study of 200,000 Australians: <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/04/confirmed-he-who-sits-the-most-dies-the-soonest/256101/">&ldquo;Confirmed: He Who Sits the Most Dies the Soonest&rdquo;</a></li> </ul> <p>There are more than 1 billion people in the world who spend a significant portion of their day at a desk. Most of the world&rsquo;s business value is created at desks. In an ideal sense, desks are where people do their life&rsquo;s work, where plans are made and where the world&rsquo;s problems are solved. So, desks should be something more than just a flat place to put your laptop. And most of all, they shouldn&rsquo;t be a place that can harm you. In fact, they should be the exact opposite: a place that contributes to being healthy, productive and doing your best work.</p> <p>So I got to thinking: Here is this place where many of us spend half our waking hours. The place where we work, create, communicate &hellip; and it&rsquo;s killing us. We think nothing of spending a few thousand dollars extra on a car that will keep us safer. Or a better mattress that will help us to sleep better. But a desk that can make it feel effortless to be healthier, more fit and more productive throughout the day? I wasn&rsquo;t finding it. So I decided to create one.</p> <p>The desk that we created is based on UXoP principles:</p> <ol> <li><strong>Contextual data:</strong> The desk <em>senses</em> and <em>recognizes</em> when the user arrives, so it can log the user into a cloud-based profile and quantify the benefits of sitting less.</li> <li><strong>Anticipation and adaptation:</strong> The desk <em>learns</em> when the user prefers to move, and the desk tunes its function to the user&rsquo;s height.</li> <li><strong>Actionable insights:</strong> Based on the user&rsquo;s preferences and goals, the desk <em>suggests</em> position changes that intuitively fit into the user&rsquo;s day.</li> <li><strong>Interact without interruption:</strong> When the desk &ldquo;thinks&rdquo; it&rsquo;s time to make a change, it <em>communicates</em> with the user in a way that&rsquo;s subtle enough not to break concentration.</li> <li><strong>Empower the user:</strong> The desk <em>never moves unless it&rsquo;s asked to by the user. </em></li> </ol> <p>Following UXoP principles, we developed the Stir Kinetic Desk.</p> <p>A Stir Kinetic Desk senses the user&rsquo;s approach and &ldquo;wakes up&rdquo; when the user arrives. It tracks when the user is sitting and standing at the desk, and doesn&rsquo;t count the time when the user is away. The user can set goals, and the desk gauges if goals are met. The desk also provides data, such as the extra calories burned while standing. Finally, the desk adapts and adjusts to the user over time: It learns about when the user likes to stand or sit, when and for how long &ndash; and will subtly suggest times to move that best fit the user.</p> <p>In other words, the desk <em>enhances the experience without being the experience. It&rsquo;s there when you need it and invisible when you don&rsquo;t.</em></p> <p>We&rsquo;ve seen the positive results. Our users are three times more active at Stir desks than other height-adjustable desks. People at Stir desks spend on average 50 percent of the time standing. About 95 percent of people change position every day. People move about once an hour. This is great news! Standing half of an eight-hour day at a desk can <a href="http://www.movingdesks.com/dailycaloriesburned.html">burn as many extra calories in two weeks</a> as a marathon, and changing positions regularly can add about an <a href="https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nAIhhLCHAid7RN5nhMKqMQIxL4INXZcmsAQ5jthrdZY/edit?usp=sharing">hour of extra productivity daily</a>. And something that makes us grin from ear to ear is that nine out of 10 Stir customers use the word &ldquo;Love&rdquo; to describe their Stir desk.</p> <p>A Stir desk might not necessarily belong to someone <strong>&ndash;</strong> yet it still can create a personal experience and sense of place for the user. That&rsquo;s because the data, preferences and profiles of each person is cloud-based and immediately accessible from any Stir desk.&nbsp; Stir desks can even automatically log people in who approach wearing a FitBit and, soon, other Bluetooth devices. For example, a person might be working at a Stir desk in Chicago one day and at a Stir desk in San Francisco the next day. Both desks sense and recognize the person and already know the personal preferences. Each desk displays the user&rsquo;s data on the benefits they&rsquo;ve achieved by being more active at Stir desks. So, it really isn&rsquo;t about the desk as a &ldquo;thing&rdquo; <strong>&ndash;</strong> it&rsquo;s about the desk as a place, a place that can offer a personalized experience for each person.</p> <p>You could call the Stir Kinetic Desk a non-wearable wearable. Or the desk that isn&rsquo;t a desk.</p> <p>And that&rsquo;s why Stir is more than just a &ldquo;desk company&rdquo; <strong>&ndash;</strong> or even a &ldquo;tech company&rdquo; for that matter. Our mission is to help people do their best work. So the next products that we develop may be totally different than desks. But they definitely will be focused on using technology to enhance the places where we live, work and make an impact on our world.</p> <p><em>Note: This post is adapted from JP Labrosse&rsquo;s talk at </em><a href="http://www.stirworks.com/blog/stir-giveaway-hardware-house-sxsw/"><em>Hardware House SXSW 2015</em></a><em>.</em></p> <p><em>JP Labrosse is the CEO, Founder and Chief Designer at Stir.</em></p>